The Darkest Night

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A modern true-crime classic listed by the New York Times as Wyoming’s most powerful crime writing!

On a chilly autumn night in 1973, 11-year-old Amy Burridge eagerly rode with her 18-year-old sister, Becky, to a neighborhood grocery store in the small town of Casper, Wyoming. When they finished their shopping, they discovered a flat tire on Becky’s car. Two men politely offered them a ride home. But they were not Good Samaritans.

THE DARKEST NIGHT is an intensely atmospheric portrait of people in a simple and safe place, forever changed by evil. It’s the story of how one violent crime has echoed over decades in a small town. It’s also a story of resilience in the human spirit. Humans were not intended to live behind walls, so we must find our place in a messy world … or not truly live at all.

Author and journalist Ron Franscell ventures deep into the memories of his childhood in a small Wyoming town to tell the shocking story of Wyoming’s most devastating rape and murder. In the small circle of the victims’ friends, he explores how a thirty-year-old crime remains an open wound today among the people who were splashed by its viciousness. It not only changed their lives, but it changed crime and punishment forever in Wyoming.

Praised by the Chicago Sun-Times, Rocky Mountain News, Denver Post, San Antonio Express-News, Publishers Weekly, Foreword Magazine, Midwest Book Review, and more as one of the best true-crime books of 2008.


“Heartbreaking … the girls’ last terrifying moments are delivered with such vivid texture that they are almost too painful to read. The technique and execution is not unlike Truman Capote’s ‘In Cold Blood’ … And just when your heart is broken by this terrible tragedy, Franscell adds a coda that will further disturb your peaceful sleep.” — CHICAGO SUN-TIMES

“Breathless! THE DARKEST NIGHT [is] a true-crime tale that grabs readers on the first page and doesn’t let go until long after the final word. … Thanks to Franscell’s journalism experience, his polished, yet conversational writing style appeals to the Everyman. It barely stumbles as a crackling story of lives and innocence lost.”  — ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS

“On more than one level, THE DARKEST NIGHT rises above most books in the true-crime genre, mostly because it searingly depicts a type of evil not too often exceeded. … This uncommon story has every chilling component of human terror, drama and suspense that readers of true crime look for. In an elegant and powerful voice normally seen only in fiction, Ron Franscell captures the sights, sounds and smells of this Wyoming saga and masterfully gets inside the emotional marrow of its participants. I highly recommend this engaging book.” — VINCENT BUGLIOSI #1 New York Times bestselling author of “Helter Skelter”

“Few authors understand what makes a true crime book stand out like a beacon from the mass of prosaically gruesome re-telling of police reports. Ron Franscell does! THE DARKEST NIGHT explores the true story of this unholy sacrifice of youth and misplaced trust in a gripping, throat-tightening way. It is an almost-hypnotic read, hard to look away from. But it is also compassionate as we question the awful fate of the victims, sadly singled out by fate or luck or whatever shapes our destinies. This is a very, very, good book — a gem for readers who look for the whole story, written by a very, very, good writer. Every time I hear a neighbor or a local lawman in a traditionally low-crime town, say ‘Something like murder doesn’t happen here’ — when, of course, it does — I shake my head. This time, it happened in Casper, Wyoming, and Ron Franscell takes you there … completely. It will make you cry honest tears. The victims deserve no less.”  — ANN RULE, #1 New York Times bestselling author of “Stranger Beside Me” and “Green River Running Red”

“THE DARKEST NIGHT gets everything right: Casper, Wyoming, in the boom-town 1970’s, the effect of an unspeakable crime on an entire generation of residents, and a diligent search for why it happened when the only answer can only be true evil. I know he got it right because I was there. I remember Amy Burridge and Becky Thomson before the crime and Becky after. I remember the names “Kennedy and Jenkins” spoken only with naked hatred and contempt. And I remember where I was when I heard how Becky dealt with the horror and violence after so many years. THE DARKEST NIGHT is a true story that you wish wasn’t true because it will haunt you long after you’ve read it. A remarkable achievement.”  C.J. BOX, bestselling author of “Free Fire,” “Blue Heaven” and a Wyoming native

“Ron Franscell has penned a true-crime book reminiscent of Truman Capote’s ‘In Cold Blood’ … a grim reminder of ubiquitous violence. … As a testament to the depth of evil and an elegy for a simpler time, THE DARKEST NIGHT delivers a crackling story of lives and innocence lost.” — BOOKMARKS Magazine

“I had to read [the ending] twice to make sure I had just read what I thought I did. No spoilers here, but the ending is, by far, the most unexpected, shocking ending out of all the true crime books I’ve ever read.” — EXAMINER.COM

“Read it in broad daylight, because THE DARKEST NIGHT is going to chill you like no other true crime book you’ve ever read. Author Ron Franscell mixes his own memories of Becky and Amy with re-creations of the crime, the trial, and the lives of those who were affected in almost every way by that terrible night. Lock your doors, make sure your kids are safe in bed, and pick up this horrifyingly absorbing memoir. If you’re a true crime fan, this book will undoubtedly cause a reaction: goosebumps.” —

“A chilling account of this country’s more brutal crimes. … This sad tale underscores what we already know but wish were not so: that one chance event can not only mar a person’s life but the lives of everyone connected to that person, and that no earthly justice is truly available for some crimes.”  — SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS

“A ‘must’ for any lending library strong in true-crime exposes.” —MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW

“Ron Franscell’s THE DARKEST NIGHT is the best exploration of a true crime I’ve read since ‘In Cold Blood.’ If it weren’t a cliche, I’d say that it reads like the best of novels. In fact, I’m going to say so anyway. This compelling story of “the rape and murder of innocence” in Franscell’s hometown, as told by one of America’s best writers of fiction and non-fiction, changed my mind about our society, its norms and laws, and, I’m afraid, the evil that can lie hidden in the human heart. THE DARKEST NIGHT is an American masterpiece: fearless, deeply personal, dramatic, timely, and, unfortunately, as true as true can be.” — HOWARD FRANK MOSHER, bestselling author of “Waiting for Teddy Williams” and “The True Account”

“An intimate true crime story. Franscell tells his story from a truly unique perspective. What sets THE DARKEST NIGHT apart in the genre is that he was there, not as a victim or a perpetrator, but as a child splashed by the unexpected evil of it all — and he grew up with a gift to be able to tell the story in all its violent colors.” — GERRY SPENCE, famed Wyoming trial lawyer and author of “Gunning for Justice”

“The book is as much [Ron] Franscell’s own story as it is Becky [Thomson’s] or [Ron] Kennedy’s, making THE DARKEST NIGHT stand out from the legion of true-crime books. The author here was an affected bystander, not a neutral observer after the fact. … The story in THE DARKEST NIGHT is, in the end, too horrifying to try to explain.” — DENVER POST

“Ron Franscell reveals extensive new details of one of the vilest crimes in Wyoming history, one that cast a long and poisonous shadow through more than three decades. He returns to his hometown (and mine) of Casper to illuminate how it touched the lives of so many who were dragged along in its wake. First-rate reporting and a riveting read.” — PETE WILLIAMS, NBC News Justice Correspondent

“Amazingly well-written, this is an important story for America today, maybe for the world.”      — LOUIE FREE, host at WWOW-AM, Cleveland

“Ron Franscell’s investigation into a town scarred by evil strikes some unexpectedly resonant chords. A true insider, Franscell’s insight into the case is more than equaled by his insight into the tight-knit town, making windy Casper, Wyo., one of the book’s most mysterious characters. … [his] reportorial vigor, fine pacing and moral center carry the grim story, and he’s also capable of great moments of eloquence.” — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

“Author and newspaperman Ron Franscell is one of the most versatile writers on the scene today.  THE DARKEST NIGHT is one of those rare true-crime books that crosses genre lines into what is simply dramatic literary nonfiction at its best.  This is much more than a book about one of the most chilling crimes I can recall.  In the vein of ‘In Cold Blood’  – and perhaps even more meaningful with the author’s personal connection – it is a deep and moving tale about the impact of a crime on a small town, written with the flair of a novelist, and a journalist’s eye and ear for truth.” — STEVE JACKSON, bestselling author of “Monster” and “Bogeyman”

“In a style similar to ‘In Cold Blood,’ Mr. Franscell captures, from start to finish (if there is ever a finish), this terrible saga. He went to enormous lengths to provide vivid and unforgettable narrative. … The end will floor you. If it was fiction, no one would believe it could happen.” — KEN BLUM, Publishers Auxiliary

“‘A heartbreaking story but it’s also dynamic, which makes it an extraordinary book. Franscell has imbued every page with exquisite Didionesque prose, perceptive analyses of the events and the persons involved, and thorough interviews and research, drawing readers intimately into the vortex of a hideous crime. … Ron Franscell takes readers on a journey into the nature of evil and the pain of survival.” — BARBARA GERSHENBAUM, at

“What sets the book apart from others in the true-crime genre is that Franscell grew up next door to the victims. … THE DARKEST NIGHT doesn’t give Franscell his needed closure, but it does give him a chance to meditate on the bonds of community, the nature of evil, and the need to move on. It is also serves as a grim reminder that random, senseless crimes happen regularly and can never truly be explained or understood.”  — WINNIPEG (Manitoba) FREE PRESS

“By far right up there with the best true crime books ever written. … THE DARKEST NIGHT takes the reader to the scene of the crime with eloquently written details and specifics of the case, leaving the reader feeling emotions that run the gamut.” —

“Suspenseful narrative and amazing detail … a classic tragedy about how the past never really separates from the present.” — RAWLINS (Wyo.) DAILY TIMES

(Originally published in hardcover under the title FALL.)

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